Lakers-Thunder Game 2: A Thunder magic trick, a Lakers disappearing act, and a change of the guard

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In Game 1, everything went wrong for the Lakers, everything went right for the Thunder. Thunder won. In Game 2, for 46 minutes, at least some things went right for the Lakers, everything went wrong for the Thunder. The pace was slow. The defense was incredible for the Lakers. The Thunder weren’t hitting jumpers. A seven-point lead with two minutes. Hold onto the ball, hold onto the lead, gain control of the series, go back to L.A. having rattled the kids in blue.

And then.

Disaster.

77-75 OKC over L.A.

As the Thunder closed on a 9-0 run, you couldn’t help but think of how often the Lakers had done this exact thing to so many teams. They were the ones who made the key steals late. They were the ones who waited for the opponent to crack. They were the ones who made clutch plays. But now? Now it’s OKC. They won when they played flawless, they won when they played terribly. And now it’s 2-0 OKC.

For Oklahoma City, there are reasons to be concerned but a ton of reasons for confidence. When the shots didn’t fall, they won. They had just a 92 offensive efficiency Wednesday night, and yet got the win. They had an off night offensively for the second-best scoring machine in the league, and they walk away with a 2-0 lead. Defensively, they stepped up to the challenge. Had they bent more inside, the game could have broken open. Had Thabo Sefolosha not done such a marvelous job on Kobe Bryant, helping him to a 9-25 night, they may not have sustained. The Thunder defense kept them in it, the Thunder’s athletes took the momentum, the Lakers’ ineptitude opened the door, and Kevin Durant slammed it shut.

And for a fun twist on a narrative, instead of LeBron James failing in the clutch, it was Kobe Bryant with this line: 0-2, zero points, 1 turnover, one bad pass knocked out off of him, one bad miss, one airball, no final shot, and a whole lot of frustration.  Bryant was clearly livid both after Kevin Durant’s game winner and upon turning around to see Steve Blake taking a three-pointer for the win instead of, you know, him.

It’s not wise to get riled up about Blake, however. This is a shooter who hit five threes against the Denver Nuggets in Game 7. He was wide open. I mean, wide open. The pass had to be made, the shot had to be taken. It just didn’t fall. This is life in the NBA, the reality of clutch vs. the myth. Bryant, though, certainly struggled and his play down the stretch may have thrown a little dirt on the Lakers.

But this series is far from over. The Lakers proved Wednesday that they can throw some kinks in the chain of OKC’s mighty system, and headed back to L.A. they have to be hopeful a few more things will go their way. The question is whether they can force OKC into the same halfcourt troubles it had Wednesday night, or if they get busted open by the same team that torched them in Game 1.

The Lakers can get right back into this thing with a win on Friday. But it’s a back to back set against a younger, fresher, hungrier team that seems to have all the answers, that can cross the finish line even when they stumble. The Lakers? They’re just trying to get the dust out of their mouth.

The Lakers had answers for the Thunder until the end. Then the ghosts that the Lakers usually wreak on their opponents grabbed hold of L.A.. By the throat.

Closing note: Andrew Bynum laughed as he left the floor.

Watch Bulls coach Jim Boylen get bowled over by Denver’s Torrey Craig

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Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen received a raise as part of the team deciding he deserved additional compensation after moving up from an assistant position.

Of course, what Boylen probably didn’t expect when he took the head job was to literally be in a more vulnerable position on the floor.

During Thursday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Boylen was it standing on the sidelines in front of his bench when an errant pass from Nikola Jokic sent Torrey Craig hurdling into Boylen.

Via Twitter:

Everyone appeared to be okay after the collision, but even still it feels like with the way things have gone for Boylen in Chicago, this could only happen to him.

Charles Barkley isn’t buying Kyrie Irving’s apology to LeBron James (VIDEO)

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Kyrie Irving made headlines on Wednesday night when he won the game for the Boston Celtics against the Toronto Raptors, then proceeded to call LeBron James to apologize about how he treated the Los Angeles Lakers star when the two were on the Cleveland Cavaliers together.

To many, the move seemed like a quick maturation of Irving as well as a surprising about face by the shifty point guard. Even LeBron thought that Irving calling him was out of character, saying as much to media on Wednesday.

However, some saw Irving’s comments and actions a little bit differently. Speaking on Inside the NBA on TNT on Thursday, Charles Barkley said that he felt Irving’s conversation with LeBron was actually a swipe at his current Celtics teammates.

Via Twitter:

To be fair, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst expressed a similar sentiment to Barkley’s on “The Jump” on Thursday, and I have to side with both of them. Their explanation of Irving’s comments make more sense than some kind of overnight maturation on the part of the Celtics star.

Irving is a very good player but he’s also a transparent marketer. His flat earth comments, his commercial that became a terrible movie … it’s all about his personal brand. Part of that is shifting blame away from himself as Boston — currently fifth in the East — continues to struggle.

I don’t think Irving is magically more mature. If anything, his apology is a self-serving attempt at comparing himself to LeBron and by association, the rest of the Celtics as the flotsam that has traditionally consisted the Cavaliers roster.

That’s really not a fair view of either side, and I don’t trust much of what comes out of Irving’s comments beyond their obvious marketing value.

Russell Westbrook hanging with his son Noah before the Lakers game was extremely cute (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook seems like a pretty intense guy. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has won an MVP not by being a pushover, but by pushing past opponents for triple doubles.

We have really rounded out Westbrook as a individual over the past couple of years, particularly after Kevin Durant decamped Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. Part of that has been seeing Westbrook as a father, which we got more of on a Thursday before the Thunder took on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the game, Westbrook was seen on the floor hanging out with his son, Noah, and generally having a good time.

The result was, admittedly, extremely cute.

Via Twitter:

Noah Westbrook will be draft eligible in 2036. Set your calendars, I guess.

Michael Beasley tried to enter the game wearing his practice shorts (VIDEO)

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Michael Beasley has given us several hilarious moments over his career. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is known for being a bit of a draft bust as well as an enigmatic, often goofy NBA personality.

On Thursday as the Lakers got set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley was unable to check into the game thanks to a wardrobe malfunction on his part. Specifically, Beasley tried to enter the game while wearing his practice shorts.

Officials told him he couldn’t enter the game and Beasley quickly ran back to the locker room to change into the correct uniform.

Via Twitter:

LeBron James can’t return back to the Lakers soon enough.